This year, Bill Self and company have increased the stakes by rounding up one of the most impressive collections of potential recruits to step foot in Lawrence -- much less any other college town -- at the same time. Taking their official visits will be the top two remaining recruiting priorities for Jayhawks in the class of 2006; Chicago PG Sherron Collins and Dallas forward Darrell Arthur. However, they’ll be joined by no less than underclassmen who are potential blue chippers themselves.
Visiting from the class of 2007 will be Minnesota big man Cole Aldrich, Georgia wing Lance Storrs, Georgia forward Gani Lawal, homegrown PG Tyrel Reed, and forward George Goode from nearby Kansas City. From the class of 2008 the Hawks will host top five prospect, and Kansas City native, Travis Releford and 2009 stud Xavier Henry -- who will be driven to Late Night by his brother C.J. who committed to Kansas before electing to play pro baseball -- rounds out the crew.
Considering their success in the class of 2005, recruiting analyst Rob Harrington, who covers the national beat for both USA Today and PrepStars.com, is impressed that Self has continued to be so aggressive with the class of 2006.
“After the class Kansas signed last year, they were completely entitled to take it easy with the Class of 2006,” said Harrington. “They're loaded with young talent all over the court and have the necessary pieces to win a national title somewhere down the line. If he's established himself as any one thing as a head coach, however, Bill Self continues to recruit one step ahead of convention.”
Harrington is particularly impressed with the vigor in which Kansas has continued to recruit Collins, despite having a potential difference maker in Mario Chalmers already on the roster. He can also see the continuance of a trend Self’s recruiting that started at Illinois.
"With a top-five freshman point guard like Chalmers on campus, Kansas has no business recruiting another prime floor general this year. But you see the name Sherron Collins on that list, which means Self aims to upset the cycle,” said Harrington of Self’s pursuit of Collins. “There's more to that than greed. With so many players looking to leave school as early as possible, the idea is to insure the future of the most important position on the court."
If Chalmers does play longer than expected, Self will simply have to dole out playing time to a pair of college point guards -- it didn't appear to hurt his former recruits Dee Brown and Deron Williams last year.
As for Arthur, Harrington sees a recruit who could add to the already explosive athleticism in the Jayhawk arsenal.
“Looking at Arthur, Kansas could become even more explosive on the wing, though Arthur actually may be more suited for the power forward spot in college,” Harrington says of the swift Texan known as Shady. “He actually fills more of a need than Collins, but either or -- dare we say it -- both would be welcome in Lawrence.”
While nobody can predict how much Late Night will come into play in either Collins’ or Arthur’s ultimate decision, it can help down the road. As Harrington sees it, there will be a slew of young guys getting either their first taste or forming early opinions on Kansas Basketball.
"Even if KU strikes out on its remaining senior targets, Midnight Madness also exert a profound influence on underclassmen targets, many who haven't visited campuses previously and aren't accustomed to the idea of thousands of ravenous fans gyrating to the sounds of a loose scrimmage,” said Harrington. “Kansas, in particular, has taken full advantage of their intimate confines during Madness events to generate maximum volume and excitement.”
Finally, Harrington thinks the inclusion of so much local talent should pay dividends as well. Even if guys like Reed, Goode and Releford weren’t high major caliber players worthy of an invite on the basis of their skills, it is important for the Kansas staff to develop ties to local recruits.
"Specifically, you have to appreciate the care taken to bring in local talent in the underclasses,” said Harrington. “Even if KU ultimately looks elsewhere, they get local players and their constituents talking about Kansas basketball when they get home, and the impact is significant on many other young prospects.”